Despite the Bush administration’s best efforts, forcing drug companies to raise the price of birth control at college health clinics did not stop college students from having sex. All it did was make obtaining birth control more difficult and expensive. Thankfully, the passage of President Barack Obama’s stimulus package removes the impediments that companies faced in offering college students discounted birth control. The reversal of President George Bush’s backward policies should come as a relief to students nationwide. But just removing the penalties for offering discounts doesn’t necessarily mean that the prices will drop again. Drug companies should seize upon this opportunity to provide affordable birth control once again by reinstating the discounts Bush had eliminated.
In January 2007, the Bush administration passed the Deficit Reduction Act, which penalized drug manufacturers for offering discounted birth control to universities. To take advantage of the discount for as long as possible, the University Health Service stocked up on the popular birth control Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo. But UHS’s supply ran out in September 2008 and the price subsequently doubled. Wherever possible, UHS encouraged patients to switch to generic equivalents, but for some students that wasn’t a viable or smart option.
Thankfully, Obama’s stimulus package removes the penalties. It did not, however, require the manufacturers to return to the old discounts. This step has been left up to the companies.
It’s an encouraging development to see the Bush policy overturned. Penalizing those who offered cheaper contraception to college-aged women was an underhanded way of trying to stop college kids from having sex. In the eyes of the Bush administration, the best way to encourage abstinence was to make birth control prohibitively expensive.
But making birth control harder to buy doesn’t mean that students will stop having sex. Many college-aged kids choose to engage in sexual activity and no amount of legislation is going to seriously impact this. All the policy accomplished was decreased access to birth control — a woman’s best option for preventing unplanned pregnancies. An infringement upon this choice means an infringement upon a woman’s reproductive rights, and the government was wrong to abridge access to birth control.
In order to cope with the higher prices, many students who couldn’t afford to pay more for birth control switched to a generic version. But not every type or brand comes in a generic form, and not every woman should be taking a generic brand. No two bodies are exactly the same. Every woman should have the opportunity to use the best birth control for her body, and every woman deserves to be able to make that choice independently of prohibitive government regulations.
With this policy finally eliminated, it’s time for drug companies to restore the discounted prices so that all college students can afford to do what they want with their own bodies.